VSIt is a long journey through his own country that Mr. Rajshekhar has undertaken. Between 2014 and 2016, when Narendra Modi came to power, this Indian journalist who started his career as an environmental specialist chose to leave his urban comfort to explore, “The ear glued to the ground”, the depths of this continent country. For three years, bag on his back, he lived in six Indian states, Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and finally Gujarat, the former stronghold of the Prime Minister. Each time, he landed without any preconceived draft articles, taking his time speaking with bosses, politicians, activists, bureaucrats, religious leaders, journalists, academics, but also ordinary citizens, and understand and analyze the real state of the country.
He delivered, as he was immersed, a series of reports to the independent news site Scroll, a material which forms the basis of his 290-page book entitled Despite the State (“Despite the state”, Westland Books, untranslated), published in January. The result is a plunge into the gaping loopholes of Indian democracy, a relentless account of the dysfunction of federated states, undermined by corruption, patronage, the cult of the personality of elected officials and colluding capitalism.
Schools without teachers and hospitals without surgeons
The author notes the stranglehold of the parties in place, which embezzle public money, concentrate powers, appropriate resources, such as minerals and sand, hold the media, create poverty, by being unable to provide the population essential services, education, health and justice. There are schools, of course, but without teachers, hospitals, but without surgeons, as in the Punjab, because the state does not pay them enough. Everywhere, the author notes that, faced with the bankruptcy of their regional government, people fall back on their social group, caste, religion.
The originality of the journalist’s approach is to dissect the democratic functioning, not at the level of the central State but of the regions, governed in India by executives and endowed with legislative assemblies. India has 28 states and 8 Union territories. ” In each one, the institutions, torn from the founding values of a young idealistic democracy and diverted by power structures, decline in disorder and irresponsibility ”, judge Mr. Rajshekhar. His observation takes on particular relief with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated the country and revealed the insufficiency, in most regions, of health systems.
You have 11.07% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.